We’ve all thought about time travel and what we’d do with the gift to move backward or forward along the fourth dimension. I think the wish to be able to go back and undo a mistake came to me long before I ever encountered science fiction. I can’t tell you how many times I looked back on some rash action–usually from the perspective of a few seconds after the act–and wished I could have a do-over. Then at some point the notion of time travel came to me by way of Ray Bradbury, “The Twilight Zone,” elementary description of Einstein’s theories, and the Firesign Theatre. “Nancy! Nancy! I’ve just returned from ancient Greece! Look at this grape!”
I think time-shift fantasies fall into two obvious major categories: the visit to the future–either to check in on your future self or to visit the world we’re begetting with our blunders; or the visit to the past. The visit to the past hardly ever seems to be cast as a casual return to the olden days. It’s usually a trip back to an incident we see as crucial. A battle. An assassination. Any incident famous or infamous that we’d like to see firsthand or try to arrest with our knowledge of the consequences. What might happen if you could introduce Gavrilo Princip or persuade him to forego watching the archduke’s Sarajevo appearance for a nice raspberry gelato?
I was thinking about all this yesterday as I found myself listening, for maybe the 10.000th time, to the “Allman Brothers at Fillmore East” recording of “Stormy Monday.” I wore out a couple copies of the LP listening to that track and that side of the album. “While we’re doing that blues thing, we’re gonna play this old Bobby Bland song for you–actually, it’s a T-Bone Walker song”–is that Dwayne Allman introducing it?–and then the band rolls into the song’s first chords, followed by Greg Allman’s vocal: “They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad. …“
I could fit everything I know about music on a postage stamp; and not one of the big rectangular kinds, either. But I do know what I like. There’s not a note in the 8-plus minutes of that track I don’t savor. The vocals. The dual percussion. The bass. And especially the guitars, the way the Dwayne Allman and Dickie Betts trade licks and leads and complement each other through the entire piece. They’re so good it hurts to think of how short a time they played together.
So: My time-machine wish list? I think I’d skip Sarajevo to attend that one show.